The latest addition to this year’s WWE Hall of Fame class is Mark Henry. News of Henry’s induction circulated over the weekend after a WWE magazine had been sent out with Henry included with this year’s class. As a three-time U.S. National Weightlifting champion, Henry represented the U.S. at the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics before transitioning to professional wrestling full-time, signing an unprecedented ten-year contract with the World Wrestling Federation.
Henry appeared on WWF television prior to the ’96 games, where a back injury prevented Henry from performing well and finished in 14th. He was rushed onto television quickly and had his first match on pay-per-view in September 1996 against Jerry Lawler. He turned heel in 1997 and was added to the Nation of Domination, where he remained through the end of 1998 when the faction dissolved, and he was paired with D-Lo Brown. The two worked as a tag team and were involved in several vignettes, including Brown driving Henry and Chyna on a date and Brown later coaching Henry to lose weight (which was a frequent criticism Henry faced at the time with the company).
During the Attitude Era, Henry was presented with the some of raunchiest ideas that the era produced with Henry going along with anything asked of him. There was one episode where Henry was set up with “Sami”, who Henry was unaware was a transvestite and they depicted Sami performing oral sex on Henry and then they cut to Henry’s mother in the audience, who looked in shock at what was happening. Henry was also linked with Mae Young with the two having a sexual relationship and culminated with the couple expecting a child and Young giving birth to a hand on an episode of Raw in 2000.
Henry would go through periods where they would push him and then ultimately hit the brakes on the push, whether it be an injury that stalled plans or the push just wasn’t taking with the audience. In 2006, Henry wrestled The Undertaker in a Casket Match at WrestleMania at the Allstate Arena, which is only memorable in the sense it was ‘Taker’s last “average match” before he went on a tear stealing the show at WrestleMania from 2007-2013.
The highest accolade of Henry’s career came in 2011 when he won the World title on SmackDown from Randy Orton in September at the “Night of Champions” card and held the title until December. Henry had a main event aura during this period and was performing at his highest level.
He was sidelined for most of 2012 and then had a brief feud with John Cena in 2013, which began with arguably the greatest performance of Henry’s career. In June 2013, Henry announced the night before Raw he had a major announcement to make and was tweeting celebrities and various personalities to tease a retirement announcement. Henry appeared on Raw in his infamous salmon-colored suit jacket and delivered one of the greatest speeches in the history of the show to announce his retirement, going home to his children and crying in the ring. Meanwhile, John Cena was standing off to the side from his match right before the speech, it led to Henry swerving the audience and attacking Cena.
Henry joins Bill Goldberg, The Dudley Boyz, Ivory, Jeff Jarrett, Hillbilly Jim, and Jarrius Robertson in this year’s class. When Brad Shepard reported several of the names that have since been announced for the class, he included Bam Bam Bigelow, who is expected to be added to this year’s list.